As I was growing up in Scotland, I learned to cook by watching my grandmother and her two neighbors. One of these three ladies always won the prizes at the local fair for home-made fudge or shortbread. They guarded their recipes fiercely. No written copies existed and as far as I know all three of them took their secret recipes to the grave with them. However I think my recipe below would get a nod of approval from any of them. Every December I make several batches to have plenty on hand to include in gift trays of cookies and on our dessert tables.
This recipe is truly “short” and the dough doesn’t lend itself to being rolled out and cut into shapes, but if you want something a little fancier, when it first comes out of the oven you can use cookie cutters to make pretty shapes. Of course this means you’ll have scraps of cookie that someone has to eat. Darn. For Christmas we use green and red sanding sugar and cut holly leaf or bell shapes. For Valentines we use pink and silver sanding sugar and heart-shaped cutters.
While my personal favorite is the most simple traditional four-ingredient Scottish Shortbread, there are many ways to vary the basic recipe. Add lemon or orange zest to the dry ingredients for a hint of citrus. Mix in finely chopped crystallized ginger. Cut shortbread into fingers and dip one end in melted chocolate. Add finely chopped pecans or walnuts to the dough. Add chopped fresh herbs such as rosemary, lemon balm or chamomile to the dry ingredients. Use vanilla sugar instead of plain sugar.
Who knew that four simple ingredients could produce such a little slice of heaven.
1 lb. butter – softened
1 cup sugar – granulated sugar gives a coarser texture, powdered sugar a very fine tight texture
3 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup white rice flour
For decoration: Sanding sugar or 3 Tablespoons plain white sugar.
— DIRECTIONS —Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
I use a stand mixer for this process and an 11 x 16 cookie sheet.
Beat butter on high speed for about 2 minutes. With mixer motor running, slowly drizzle sugar into the butter. Combine flours and add a cup at a time to the butter mixture. Dough will seem dry and crumbly. Dump it onto the ungreased cookie sheet. Using your hands, pull dough together and knead very lightly. Pat out evenly to fill the cookie sheet. Using a fork, prick holes 2 inches apart.
Place cookie sheet in the oven and bake until golden brown – about 40 minutes. As soon as you remove from the oven sprinkle top lightly with colored sanding sugar or plain granulated sugar. Cut into squares or shapes while still warm. Do not remove from cookie sheet until completely cooled.
Hint: It’s even better if you have enough patience to chill your dough for 30 minutes before baking.
The White Oak Inn
The Scottish Broad 🙂